Skip to main content

Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

See other formats

where the injustice which he hated, he could see no good in
After his second failure at the Polytechnique, Galois returned
to school to prepare for a teaching career. The school now had a
new director, a tune-serving, somewhat cowardly stool-pigeon
for the royalists and clerics. This man's shilly-shally tempor-
izing in the political upheaval which was presently to shake
France to its foundations had a tragic influence on Galois' last
Still persecuted and maliciously misunderstood by his pre-
ceptors, Galois prepared himself for the final examinations*
The comments of his examiners are interesting. In mathematics
and physics he got 'very good'. The final oral examination drew
the following comments: 'This pupil is sometimes obscure in
expressing his ideas, but he is intelligent and shows a remark-
able spirit of research. He has communicated to me some new
results in applied analysis.' In literature: 'This is the only
student who has answered me poorly; he knows absolutely
nothing. I was told that this student has an extraordinary
capacity for mathematics. This astonishes me greatly; for, after
his examination, I believed him to have but little intelligence.
He succeeded in hiding such as he had from me. If this pupil is
really what he has seemed to me to be, I seriously doubt
whether he will ever make a good teacher.' To which Galois,
remembering some of his own good teachers, might have
replied, 'God forbid.'
In February 1830, at the age of nineteen, Galois was defi-
nitely admitted to university standing. Again his sure know-
ledge of his own transcendent ability was reflected in a wither-
ing contempt for his plodding teachers and he continued to
work in solitude on his own ideas. During this year he composed
three papers in which he broke new ground. These papers con-
tain some of his great work on the theory of algebraic equations.
It was far hi advance of anything that had been done, and
Galois had hopefully submitted it all (with further results) in a
memoir to the Academy of Sciences, in competition for the
Grand Prize in Mathematics. This prize was still the blue ribbon
in mathematical research; only the foremost mathematicians of
H.W.—VOL. II.                                                                                                         40T